Ah, now I understand.Although I accept "atheist" as a designation to avoid pointless argument, technically I am merely a skeptic, dismissing many religious claims as inconsistent with known science or, unsubstantiated, or indeterminate, but not ruling all of them out altogether. I define my skepticism by my reaction to many ideas: "That's interesting--I wonder whether it's true."
I apply that skepticism to more than just religion and more than just outlandish claims like bigfoot, extraterrestrial visitations, chemtrails, unreferenced statistics, and conspiracy theories in general. I'm especially skeptical of ideas that resonate with what I would like to believe because giving attractive ideas a pass can lead to endless chains of errors and misconceptions.
I would love to believe, for instance, that I am inherently superior to most other people. Alas, no evidence supports that. Same with the ideas that I an immortal part of myself will survive my physical death or that the good that I do can ever compensate for any unintentional harm that I may have done in the past.
Even at my advanced age, for instance, I still feel bad that I accidentally hurt one of my brothers at the age of four and that I may have broken or dislocated the arm of someone who tried to pick my pocket on a Boston subway when I was in my teens. That I have also saved a few lives and once protected a young girl from three rapists changes none of that. There's no balance sheet for things like that, nor can I be forgiven by any except the few whom I have wronged. None of us can.
So there it is. I am a skeptic. Call me atheist if you like, though--I really don't mind.
A fence rider who judges all on either side. Smacks of both arrogance and cowardice...
And yet, an innate sense of guilt. And the need to compensate.
Where did that come from?